Looking Back, Moving Forward: Alabama Department of Public Safety Training HistoryFor almost 75 years, sworn members of the Alabama Department of Public Safety have been tasked with enforcing traffic and criminal laws, investigating crashes and promoting traffic safety in Alabama.
While training was a key component from the very beginning, instruction for Public Safety’s charter members pales in comparison to what today’s troopers experience. Still, the first 74 officers spent 10 days at the Gay Teague Hotel in Montgomery learning highway and criminal laws, first aid and the art of riding a motorcycle.
Later, in December 1953, the Alabama Police Academy opened at Gunter Air Force Base and received its first class, comprising municipal officers from across the state. During the days to come, class members learned from the ranks of an impressive faculty, its members drawn from such agencies and fields as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Treasury Department, along with state toxicologists, lawyers, judges and staff from the National Automobile Theft Bureau.
Public Safety’s academy moved in the early 1960s from Gunter to a new $300,000 facility at the corner of Federal Drive and Coliseum Boulevard. In 1962, when there was a shortage of arresting officers, a program for training trooper recruits was instituted, and the group of about 40 recruits received the most comprehensive and lengthy training ever afforded Public Safety employees. By 1972, the academy conducted more than 50 schools at the academy.
In 1977, the academy moved to Craig Air Force Base in Selma, and the Montgomery facility became the site for the department’s district offices. It currently is used to house Highway Patrol’s Montgomery Post, DPS Supply and Photo Services units.Craig Air Force Base was built in 1940 to train U.S. Army Air Corps pilots and served that purpose well. When Public Safety moved its Alabama Criminal Justice Training Center to Selma, hundreds of trooper and officers from law enforcement agencies across Alabama were trained there.
Gradually, though, time took its toll, and the 50-year-old buildings had seen better days. There were leaky roofs, major plumbing issues, outdated kitchen equipment and heating and cooling systems. The gymnasium eventually was condemned.
In September 2010, Public Safety moved its Alabama Criminal Justice Training Center to a new state-of-the-art home on the campus of Wallace Community College Selma, with a 75-unit dormitory and academic building. The new academy shares a dining hall and fitness center with the Department of Corrections Academy. Within the next two years, an auditorium that seats up to 500 individuals was added to the complex.
And there is room to grow further, with plans to build additional dormitories and more.